This March, a lot of things that I have recently learned about feminism, diversity, equity and inclusion as well as climate change started coming together. I would like to share my thinking with you.
Many people think that the feminist movement has realized its goals. Women in many countries of the world can wear trousers, vote, or pursue a career. It is widely accepted that a woman may behave similarly to a man. But we are still not in a place, where behaviors and values traditionally associated with females, are ranked highly. A man wearing a skirt, pushing a pram, or doing house work risks being ridiculed – the more visible, the riskier. Am I painting too dark a picture? I don’t think so. I recently read, that articles about father’s concerns are predominantly read by women. Fathers taking a career break is still an exception to the rule and it is more likely to induce shame and anxiety than boost their self-confidence.
I call this the monoculture of success. In the monoculture of success, everyone seems to be striving to be the alpha male. I don’t mean to be rude. Let me remind you that mammals are hierarchical animals and human beings are mammals. Needless to say in mammal groups the alpha male gets to eat first, has the right to reproduction etc. You may protest and say, our societies don’t work like that. And you are right. After all, we are the only species with combustion engines and smart phones.
All joking aside, what I am claiming is that we are the only species able to negotiate our heritage, but in doing so, we must reflect. Above all the difference between being able to fulfill basic needs in a better way and enjoying the abundance that surrounds us in the first world, is to say the least, substantial. All the more troubling is the fact, that there is little evidence that we are able to free ourselves from the hegemony of abundance.
So I asked myself, is there any other model of success possible. And I am happy to say, that I was able to think of one very different one.
Yesterday, I was looking at Hakas in context of the play that I am currently (still) working on. Having been in New Zealand on a student exchange, I know hakas from that experience. They are rituals, which the Maoris perform on various occasions. They can be quite scary, even when they are celebrating something positive. They have an aggressive element to them.
Thinking about the hakas led me to reflect on the time when white men arrived on the land of indigenious people. I then assumed that quite a number of indigenious people resented and cursed the invaders. What then, I continued thinking, if the current situation of climate change, was the result of all these curses? I let the thought sink in. If so, all of a sudden, indegenious people would be triumphing over modern society with its colonial roots.
I then argued with myself, that if we accept the curse as real, the indigenious people back in the day had conjured a difficult situation which was particularly harsh for their decendants in the global south. The success of their curses must taste bitter, would they witness it. Would they have been able to solve it? Would their approaches, if transferred to the present, have a chance to turn climate change around? Can they offer us a model different from the pattern of going crazy with activisim?
My imagination led me to expect, that indegenious people would observe nature more closely (forgive me, this may be another stereotype). What lessons are there in nature? I am aware of scientists thinking about how to turn carbondioxide into something else, which is exactly, what trees do. So observing nature may in fact be a desirable behavior that can bring us closer to something that we as human kind want and need.
Of course, any new definition of success can only make a significant difference, if a substancial part of society buys into it. Until then, it is just an exercise in thinking in/or out of the box.
When I try to apply the same thinking to the gendered behavior set out above, I am still stuck. I cannot help thinking that we are not close enough to extinction as a species to make caring behaviors among men and women generally and genuninly desirable. Unfortunately, for a broad swathe of people we are not close enough yet to climate collapse to invest seriously in radical change.